“FIFTH LADY. Alas! some people think there is nothing but being fine to be genteel; but the high prance of the horses, and the brisk insolence of the servants in an equipage of quality are inimitable.
“FIRST LADY. Now you talk of an equipage, I envy this lady the beauty she will appear in a mourning coach, it will so become her complexion; I confess I myself mourned for two years for no other reason. Take up that hood there. Oh, that fair face with a veil! [They take up her hood.
“WIDOW. Fie, fie, ladies. But I have been told, indeed, black does become—
“SECOND LADY. Well, I’ll take the liberty to speak it, there is young Nutbrain has long had (I’ll be sworn) a passion for this lady; but I’ll tell you one thing I fear she’ll dislike, that is, he is younger than she is.
“THIRD LADY. No, that’s no exception; but I’ll tell you one, he is younger than his brother.
“WIDOW. Talk not of such affairs. Who could love such an unhappy relict as I am? But, dear madam, what grounds have you for that idle story?
“FOURTH LADY. Why he toasts you and trembles where you are spoke of. It must be a match.
“WIDOW. Nay, nay, you rally, you rally; but I know you mean it kindly.
“FIRST LADY. I swear we do.
[TATTLEAID whispers the WIDOW.
“WIDOW. But I must beseech you, ladies, since you have been so compassionate as to visit and accompany my sorrow, to give me the only comfort I can now know, to see my friends cheerful, and to honour an entertainment Tattleaid has prepared within for you. If I can find strength enough I’ll attend you; but I wish you would excuse me, for I have no relish of food or joy, but will try to get a bit down in my own chamber.
“FIRST LADY. There is no pleasure without you.
“WIDOW. But, madam, I must beg of your ladyship not to be so importune to my fresh calamity as to mention Nutbrain any more. I am sure there is nothing in it. In love with me, quotha!”
[WIDOW is led away. Exeunt LADIES.
Thus runs the comedy, trippingly as the tongue of a gay raconteur. Sometimes the scenes are exaggerated, sometimes the characters may be overdrawn, but the satire is true, and the wit is of the best. Take, for instance, the picture reproduced above. Are not its colours—albeit bold and merciless—tinged with the redeeming hue of naturalness? And of you, fair daughters of Eve (if any of you condescend to read these pages), let the author ask one impertinent little question: Is there not something in the conversation of Dick Steele’s First Lady, or his Second Lady, or all the other Ladies, which suggests the charity and intellectuality that doth hedge in an afternoon tea?
THE BARTON BOOTHS
“Sweet are the charms of her I love,
More fragrant than the damask rose;
Soft as the down of turtle-dove,
Gentle as winds when zephyr blows;
Refreshing as descending rains,
On sun-burnt climes, and thirsty plains.”